Your Developers Went Agile, Now What?

sales marketing meetingBy Mary McGuire (@Badgerpolo)

Agile development hurdles that market facing teams should expect

While the term agile was coined in 2001, it has gained significant speed in recent years. In fact, most organizations that practice agile development have adopted it within the past five years.  There are plenty of tools, training and resources available for product management and technology teams once the decision is made to shift from waterfall to agile, but what about the rest of the organization?

Releasing new features and products to the market four times a year, on a set schedule is significantly different than releasing new code daily.  Moving to agile development is exciting, but to be successful it needs to be embraced by your entire organization, everything from people, to process to technology.

Below are the four biggest hurdles that market facing teams (Product Marketing, Marketing, Sales Enablement, Customer Success, Professional Services, etc) should expect, and be prepared to overcome when moving from waterfall to agile.

  1. There is no release date

Typical waterfall releases happen on a regular, quarterly release cadence.  Whatever product is ready to go by the time the Q&A cutoff hits, is in.  Product release and market release were one in the same. A quarterly release date enables the market facing teams to schedule internal enablement, external enablement and communications, all laddering up to the release date. With agile, you need to designate a person or team (typically Product Management) that will determine when features will be released to customers or when a product has met MVP (minimum viable product). That team is responsible for setting how often, and what features will be released to customers.

  1. New features go “on the shelf”

Along those same lines, it’s typical with waterfall development to go “live” to customers by a certain date.  With agile, the concept is for your development team to push code more often, and as soon as that code is ready to go it’s placed “on the shelf.”  The Product Management team will then determine what they want to pull off the shelf to release to customers based on which features go better together and allow for a stronger market release.  The shelf refers to new features technically ready to be deployed vs. new features ready to be launched across the organization, including marketing support, enablement, collateral, etc.

  1. A pretty cadence of communications is no longer possible

Consider a long-term communications plan a thing of the past.  Every organization, and customer expectation, will be different.  Some will want (or need) to maintain a regular cadence of product communication to customers – every month for example.  Those communications will change with the move to agile development. Make sure that you ask for input, set an expectation, and continue to get feedback, from both your customer facing teams as well as directly from your customers.  If you communicate with your customers too often, you risk not having enough tangible product enhancements to include, which can result in a lack in value and customers overlooking future messages. If you don’t communicate often enough, you risk customers not being able to implement and leverage your innovation, which leads to frustrated customers and a lack of trust that they partnered with a technology leader.

  1. All releases are not created equal

Some weeks there will be a lot of tangible product enhancements, while other weeks there may be more foundation, back end architecture updates.  Some features will not have any impact on administrators, but will impact end users.  It’s important to be ok with every enablement (internal and external) and marketing release to be a little unique.  It’s more important that it’s tailored to the right audience, with the right information, than it is to conform to a structure.

How to overcome challenges stemming from an agile development transition

It may seem like the product team is throwing new code over the wall randomly, and it can be tough to keep everyone up-to-date… including your sales team, professional services team, and most importantly your customers.

Fortunately, as agile development has gained momentum, so has the attention towards the needs of the rest of your organization.  Tools like this Agile Selling eBook can get you through the agile transition by providing an ecosystem to support market facing teams during these changes. So that salespeople can stay on top of things as product offerings shift – and know how to pivot to best support customers during these changes.

A shift from waterfall to agile is exciting, and has significant benefits to your organization, and ultimately your customers. To ensure that all of the efforts of your product team don’t go to waste, make sure that the rest of your organization is prepared to embrace the change.  Good luck!

To learn more about how to extend agile methodologies into sales and marketing, download our Agile Selling Manifesto!

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